tv Amanpour Company PBS November 29, 2018 4:00pm-5:01pm PST
hello, everyone, and welcome to "amanpour & co." here's what's coming up. the white house faces a congressional grilling over its support for saudi arabia. what does that mean for the devastating war in yemen? i'll ask a top official from the anti-saudi coalition. plus -- >> you wrote you were the most pathetic human being i've ever seen on the internet in my entire life. >> behind every hateful view expressed online, there is a person. meet the podcaster trying to empathize one comment at a time. >> sometimes they say i'm mad. >> his story is almost as famous as his art, vincent van gogh.
my conversation with the actor willem dafoe who's playing him on the silver screen. uniworld is a proud sponsor of "amanpour & co." when bea tollman founded a collection of boutique hotels, she had bigger dreams, and those dreams were on the water, a river specifically, multiple rivers that would one day be home to uniworld river cruises and their floating boutique hotels. today that dream sets sail in europe, asia, india, egypt, and more. bookings available through your travel agent. for more information, visit uniworld.com. >> additional support has been provided by rosalind p. walter, bernard and irene schwartz, sue and edgar wachenheim iii, the cheryl and philip milstein family, seton melvin, judy and josh weston, and by contributions to your pbs stations from viewers like you. thank you.
welcome to the program, everyone. i'm christiane amanpour in london. the u.s. defense secretary james mattis and the secretary of state mike pompeo faced a grilling on capitol hill today when they went up to brief senators on saudi arabia. a bipartisan caucus denounced what they deemed the administration's feeble response to the murder and dismemberment of the saudi journalist jamal khashoggi. they want the u.s. to stop supporting the saudi-led war in yemen. pompeo said the suffering there, quote, grieves him but it would be, quote, a hell of a lot worse if the u.s. weren't involved. republican senator bob corker says that he's skeptical of forcing the administration's hand but is nonetheless dissatisfied by its actions. so far. >> i think 80% of the people left the hearing this morning not feeling like an appropriate response has been forthcoming.
>> yemen was already the poorest country in the middle east when smite houthi forces supported by iran took advantage of a difficult transition of power to launch a coup against the saudi-backed government in 2015. the saudis and its sunni partners backed by the united states responded with devastating force, viewing the conflict as a proxy war with iran. tens of thousands of yemenis have been killed since the war erupted three years ago and millions of them, half the population, are on the verge of famine according to the united nations. now the u.n. is mediating the first phase of negotiations to end the war due to start next month in sweden. will all or any of the sides seize the opportunity? i asked the man who represents yemen's houthi coalition, the foreign minister hisham sharaf abdullah who joined me from the capital sanaa.
minister abdullah, welcome to the program. >> thank you. >> so there you are sitting in sanaa, the capital of yemen, and your country is literally being torn apart as we speak. we understand there are going to be peace talks starting in december. can you confirm that that is going to happen, that the houthis back that, and that you will somehow be represented? >> yes. we already expressed our willingness and readiness to attend those peace consultations. there are not talks yet. there are consultations to build the trust measures between the parties. >> let's take first steps first. can i ask you, is everything on the table, or are there areas that the houthis say, no, we're not going to discuss that? do you have red lines ahead of this first step? >> really, everything will be on
the table for the trust building measures to prepare for the negotiations. we have to understand this. first consultations, build the trust between the warring parties, and then we will go to the negotiations where a lot of deals will be made. >> so, minister abdullah, what has brought you to this point because it's been incredibly difficult to bring both sides to any kind of peace negotiations? why are you even accepting to do this? >> okay, i'll tell you why. for the sake of our population who is suffering from a lot of things, and for the sake of our citizens, for the yemeni people we are ready to sit at the table to relieve them from all these things happening to our country. >> there seem to be a lot of different factions in the houthi movement. you are sounding reasonable right now. however, the leader of the houthi movement wrote an op-ed
in "the washington post" a few weeks ago, muhammad al houthi. he said the united states calling to stop the war on yemen is nothing but a way to save face after the humiliation caused by saudi arabia and its spoiled leader crown prince mohammad bin salman. who has ignored washington's pleas to clarify khashoggi's murder. moreover, trump and his administration clearly prefer to continue this devastating war because of the economic returns it produces. they drool over these arms sales prices. that's quite fiery, that puts the united states with its back to the wall. it does support the saudi coalition. but just lay out your position on the united states right now. >> let me tell you something first. i am the foreign minister of the national salvation government in sanaa. it's composed of two parties. they are the houthis and their supporters and gpc, general people's congress.
and their supporters. we are trying to bring peace to our population. peace for the people of yemen, not only peace for these parties and when you speak about the u.n. and the united states, still, we do believe the united states as a country is a peace-loving country. i lived in that country for some time and i know it. we're not talking about the administration. and sometimes we try to approach the americans. we try our best, but today if you read what the secretary of state mr. pompeo article published i think in "the new york times," what you hear from mr. matias, the secretary of defense, and mr. pompeo on his article are two different things. these guys aren't trying. in fact, the secretary of state, are trying to fight iran in our territories.
why don't they go to iran? why should the united states play this role of fighting iran through the saudis in yemen? we need yemen as yemen. we need the u.s. good efforts to bring peace to yemen, not to encourage the saudis to do more and more for this proxy war, fighting iran in yemen. that's my position. >> and you mentioned the article that secretary of state pompeo wrote. it was actually in "the wall street journal." yes, it was today, in fact. >> sorry. "the wall street journal." >> easy mistake to make from all the way over there in sanaa. tehran, it says -- >> sometimes, yes. >> pompeo says tehran is establishing a hezbollah-like entity on the arabian peninsula. a militant group with political power that can hold saudi hostage as hezbollah's missiles in southern lebanon threaten israel. in other words, they are viewing
you as iran's hezbollah-like proxies in yemen. being a direct threat to their ally, saudi arabia. what do you say to that? >> i deny that. and i can say, if iran is doing something the americans should know, with nikki haley provided at the security council in terms of iran, intervention in yemen, i can't tell you, we improve them to depend them ourselves. the iranians didn't bring any missiles to yemen, and i tell the whole world we have missiles that can fight the saudis for years. so, again, when they want to find the reason, they say iran is doing the work of hezbollah in yemen. no. the reason that i say no, why we are going for peace talks, why
we are going to share? why are we going to do all these measures to build trust, to release prisoners, to open the sanaa port. we are not the story they are trying to spread all over the world. the current administration is -- they have their own problems with this iranian issue, and they did not try to solve it, except to go to yemen with the saudis. if the americans are that afraid the strait of hormuz is there. they can stop everything that comes to any country in this region through that place. look to come and bombard yemen for four years. >> are you really denying that you, the houthi movement, gets absolutely no support or material help from iran?
>> as a coalition, we, the gpc, have a coalition with the houthis. i can tell you that we are not getting any support from iran. if anyone has the documents, the satellites, pictures, anything that proves that, let them show it to the world. not to go and see scud missiles which we got from the soviet union a long time ago, and we improved them, and tried to prove to the world these are iranian missiles. we did not shoot at the saudis for two years waiting for something to happen until we found that no one is listening to us. we started to defend ourselves. our arsenal is a defensive one not for attacks against any country. and we are here in sanaa. come to us, we'll show it to you. >> one other question, as i said
there are many different factions and perhaps competing factions amongst the houthi population. are you saying that none of the houthis gets support from iran? >> if one of these factions that you say are getting or is getting something or those revolutionary guards in iran are doing something, explain them to us. show them to us. if everyone just continues to say the houthis, iran, hezbollah, we will not reach peace. let's reach peace. let's go there. build measures for trust and start dismantling many militias in the south. we are only one military or let's say, fighting party. the other guys have 10 to 15 different militias and no one can control them. here we can control our people. >> okay. now let me ask you about the united states because as we've
discussed the united states backs the saudi-led coalition. there have been bombings definitely all over yemen including a very painful one that happened. this is just one of the many that made headlines in the summer where 44 children were killed. it was the infamous bombing of the school bus and "the new york times" has written that this site has now become something of a shrine on a brick wall near the crater, large painted letters both in english and arabic which says, america kills yemeni children. what is happening now on the ground? because they say they found american markings on the shrapnel. what is happening on the ground when it comes to how yemenis view the united states? >> let me tell you first there are many shrines in yemen. there are many places that were bombed and hundreds were killed.
one here is in sanaa, very close to us. in that place about 599 people were killed in this big hole. what you mentioned is a small example of these kinds of massacres that happened to our people. we are not saying that we cannot speak with the americans at all. we are talking about this big continent called the united states of america. but the administration now is really siding with our enemy who is killing us and providing them with information, intelligence, precise targeting of these places where they can bomb. so, again, we're asking the americans, prove it to the world that you want peace. try to stop weapons coming to saudi arabia, trying to mediate in a very good manner by which you don't side with the saudis because they are buying weapons from you or providing oil. we don't think of america as an
enemy. when we speak sometimes some slogans, death to america, we mean the administration, those who are killing us, those who are providing the weapons, who provide the fuel, but we love the american people. this is a continent you can curse or hate. >> let me ask you in direct response to this bombing of that particular bus in august, president trump was asked about it and he said it's because the saudis do not know how to use advanced u.s. weapons. and i'm going to quote. that was basically people who didn't know how to use the weapon, which is horrible. i'll be talking about a lot of things with the saudis but certainly i wouldn't be having people that don't know how to use the weapons shooting at buses with children. what is your response to that. >> with all due respect, the
president changes his tone to the saudis. again, they are doing things with the advice of american intelligence information. this place, they work through computers. they're not working through the saudis. so you'll specify the target. you'll lock it and you shoot. so, again, these kinds of justifications are not accepted by us. if the americans want to fight the war for the saudis, to do exactly what they want, then let them come but not blame the saudis. again, i blame the defense department, i blame the military of the u.s. for what they're doing and encouraging the saudis to train on us, on our population. enough is enough. stop this kind of war. the only country in the world that can stop the war, and i say it in front of the whole wardly, is the united states, not the united nations. it's the u.s. who can stop this war because they are the strongest backers of the saudis.
>> so let me see whether you accept any responsibility for what the houthis are doing. not long ago i had an interview with david beasley. he is the head of the u.n. world food program who is responsible for trying to alleviate at least some of the humanitarian burden. and when i previously interviewed him, he was very harsh on saudi arabia and what they were doing around the port of hodeidah. now he's saying he's angry with what the houthis are doing particularly around the port, particularly in holding up and threatening the flow of supplies. now, here is what he told me just a few days ago. >> i'm being hard on the houthis because they don't provide the access we need. they deny us the visas and equipment we need for the personnel to deliver the food assistance in the different regions throughout yemen. the saudis have been more cooperative. the uae has really been remarkably cooperative in working with us in terms of humanitarian financial support
and access. here's what's deplorable. when i left, literally, two days after i left. we found inside our red sea mill grain silo what are the type of land mines houthis have been using and this is in a houthi-controlled areas, seven land mines inside our facility inside the grain bins that were placed there just in the past few days. they have been entering our facilities, violating every humanitarian principle, putting our people who are working there lives on the line. it has to stop. >> that is a serious accusation. as you know just as well as i do, using humanitarian splits for -- supplies for military purposes is a violation of international law. >> i saw this interview and i met him personally in sanaa. first, there were some problems, and i do admit with the procedures to get visas, to get
other equipment. and we, the national salvation government, have done all things required to get everything required by all these organizations, unicef and others. now about the mines, i speak mainly about the mines after i saw your interview with david, i personally went to the defense department. i went to the guys who are in hodeidah, and i found out -- of course they are now doing some investigation. we did not put those mines and we want -- we requested the u.n. to give us the pictures of these mines to say if they're ours or the other party who put them inside that mill, why didn't they tell us after they returned back from hodeidah? about this we will investigate it. but now i can tell mr. david beasley that we are investigating this and we are writing a full report to him, to wsp, and we are going to
prove these mines are not ours. why should we put mines in the mill that is feeding our people in yemen? why should we do it? >> he also said, and you heard, the houthis are making it jolly hard for humanitarians to come and relieve the suffering including the wfp. i mean, that has to stop. >> we are going to stop it. we are open to all u.n. comments, any obstacles. we are going to stop it. as i said, we are trying to help our population. why should we make it difficult for our people to get food? there's no rational reason for that. anything that's being done by any glupz in that area, there are many groups, we are ready to deal with it and facilitate everything with the u.n. and any humanitarian agency by coalition. who are >> i hope the u.n. can rely on this promise from you via our program tonight because it is
for your people and it's fundamental. you and your leadership have recently mentioned the death and dismembering of our colleague, the saudi journalist jamal khashoggi. has his brutal murder by the saudis had the beneficial impact of focusing attention on yemen? >> yes, it played a big role in getting the crown prince in different directions, but it really did brought to yemen. while khashoggi really died as a martyr in a very bad occasion thousands and thousands of yemenis are dying every day because of the saudi coalition. >> all right, okay. and i point out that yemen is suffering from what the u.n. calls the worst humanitarian crisis in the world right now. foreign minister abdullah, thank you for joining us from sanaa in
yemen. >> thank you, christiane. and, as always, we have asked saudi officials to come on our program to respond and we will continue to ask. coming up on this program, my conversation with the actor willem dafoe who plays the artist vincent van gogh. his lush and floral landscapes calmed his tortured soul. but first, the picture painted of the online world is not always pretty. trolls and keyboard warriors. we're advised to ignore the haters, but with our guest decides to take them on. >> hi, i'm dylan marron. i'm start a new podcast called "conversations with people who hate me." it's an interview series where i get to know people behind the negative and hateful messages i've received on the internet. >> the point, in dylan's words, remember, there's a human on the other side of the screen. dylan marron is a digital
contrary to examining the intense interface between race, sexual assault, and privilege. he told our alicia menendez why he believes empathy is not endorsement. >> so here is a party of your story i have never got ann clear answer on which is you're trained as an actor but you've really made a name for yourself making digital videos that are much more in the activist vein. how did you make the jump? >> i was an actor all through high school. i got to college and joined a sketch comedy group and i loved it. i loved this idea of working with a group to satirize your community. to write stuff from yourself. i wrote a full length play with a friend of mine. we got some opportunities to perform it here in new york. i joined a theater company here. i was with them for four years and then with all the stuff i was doing there, i was naturally evolving into talking about social issues through my work. so i wanted to translate that
from the stage to the internet. and that's what i did. >> how do you make the jump from that to social justice videos? >> so i guess the first video series i started doing that really took off was every single word. it's a video series where i edit down to people spoken. it's speaking the language of the internet. >> short videos. >> tragically short. and it's speaking the language of the internet. it's ultimately a super cut and people found it super funny, of course, through the humor there is something else being said. these characters are only peripheral. do these characters have any names? can you understand the story, the larger story of the movie if you only see the lines spoken by these people of color? and so that kind of took off and i realized the internet was this really wonderful way to talk about very complex issues if you could challenge yourself to
distill it into very -- into a more simple output. >> for your next series you put yourself in the video. >> yes. the next big series after that was in response to the transphobic bathroom bills that were gaining media attention around the united states, and i wanted to humanize the very people at the center of the issue rather than having pundits consider this. i start add series called sitting in bathrooms are trans people. >> i see and you right when you walked in with gasped. >> we talked about super money day stuff, just who they are, snacks they liked. we also talked things about transitioning only as long as my guests were comfortable with it. but the main point of it was to just say, like, hate grows from fear, and fear grows from not knowing. >> my question with that series and then with your series on boxing where you take sociological phenomenon and
debunk them, are the people who are scared or are the people who don't understand the issue the way you might understand it watching that and are they being persuaded by that content? >> so that was a real thing i had to wrestle with. i think when i was making those series, i truly thought i am reaching all of the people that i need to reach because you just see a number and sometimes you see these enormous numbers and you see it growing, so you think that you are reaching all the people you need to reach and you think you are drastically changing minds by sharing these truths that are truths to you on the internet. i quickly learned that was not the case. >> how? >> through comments and messages. at first with the like deluge of negative comments, i just ran away from it. >> can you give me a sense of what those negative -- as someone who has a g-mail folder
called hate mail with lots of mail in it, what's the type of mail you get? >> just a lot of people calling me a faggot. people disagreeing with my take on social issues, but a lot of people telling me i was cancer, that kind of terminology used to describe people who talk about social justice on the internet. >> did that hurt or were you able to dust it off? >> totally hurt. it totally hurt. clearly i was getting many people from the right who more identified as conservative, but i was also getting a bunch of fellow lefties and that's -- that was, i think, particularly hard to deal with because there's a box in your mind where you can put a comment from someone you're ideologically opposed to. it's very challenging when you get it from someone who is in most ways very similar to you. >> so then you make something out of those comments.
what is "conversations with people who hate me"? >> conversations with people who hate me is my podcast. and it's a show where i call up some of the people who have written negative things to or about me on the internet and we have an extended conversation. >> what is your objective with the podcast? >> the signoff line i always end every episode with is, remember, there's a human on the other side of the screen. and i think my objective with the show is to remind people of that. and that means one for the authors of this negativity, of the fact the people they're writing to or about is a human who will maybe read what they have written, but also for the recipients to remember that there is a human who has written this. >> it seems particularly important in the internet age. you're 30. i'm 35. we grew up on the internet. so much of our ability to interface with one another is
informed by the way we speak to each other online. do you think this is unique to the time we are living in? >> i do. i do. the kind of mantra i've established for myself with the show is that empathy is not endorsement. and what i mean by that is just by acknowledging the humanity of someone else does not mean you are immediately co-signing everything they believe, they think, their political ideology. but i do think it is important to see each other as human. i'm not saying we should give the most dangerous ideologies room to grow. right? but i do think it is valuable to acknowledge that those ideologies grow in humans and those humans were once babies. you know? and they were shaped by all of the things that we humans go through in life, and there's
value in only as people feel they have the ability to do so. >> let's talk about the first episode. >> let's talk about it. >> you decide to call a man named chris who had written some hateful messages on a video you posted about social justice. let's take a listen. >> i don't want to put words in your mouth so correct me if i'm wrong. i was kind of like the image of the social justice warrior, right? >> right, right. >> and how would you define a social justice warrior? don't worry, i won't be offended. >> to me a social justice warrior is a, for the most part, a rich college student who has his parent, mom and dad, pay for everything. they pick and choose these subjects to be angry about in a world where people really generally don't have that much to be angry about. >> what did you take from that conversation?
>> the real kick in his message is that he had called me a piece of [ bleep ]. and, you know, my takeaway from that is it is so easy to feel angry, furious, to feel hate for someone from afar, and it is so hard when you're on the -- it is harder when you're on the phone with that person, right? and so the ability to talk to a human who sent me a message like that put me at ease. and from my relationship with chris i think that it put him at ease as well. it's just easy to talk about -- meaning i'm putting myself in chris' shoes. i can imagine it is easy for him
to talk about the hate of social justice warriors, sjws, as we are known on the internet. it's more difficult to define that to the person you're labeling as an sjw when you're on the phone with them. >> i understand what that means for you, and i understand what that means for chris. what do you think it means for your listeners? where does it take them? >> great question. i know many people listen who have politically divided homes and it gives them a little sense of hope for how they can communicate with family members who don't agree. i know others -- we do have a good number of conservative listeners, too. it's not the majority, but there are who feel hopeful this is what conversations can sound like. what i'm always really careful to say this is not a prescription for activism.
you know what i'm saying? i'm not saying that everyone must now call their online detractors and then the world will be a better place. >> to the contrary. there are activist who is take a very different stance. >> very different. >> and i think have some legitimate concern that by giving a platform, two people who come from a place of hate in some cases, who come from a place of extreme bias. even, you often say, empathy is not an endorsement. but i do wonder if it is legitimatization. >> currently in this moment i really do believe that conversation is crucial to have. i did not invent these dangerous ideologies. i also don't believe that by ignoring these dangerous ideologies that you are doing any service to understanding nuance and complexity of what it means to be human. i also know if that quote is then taken out of context then people will apply it to what they believe to be the most dangerous thing.
and then i think it's, of course, misleading the word hate is then in the title because what i'm referring to is the kind of innocuous hate, a hate that is written online every day that we see our friends write. >> in addition to speaking to people who have given you negative comments, you also bring people together in one episode which we're about to listen to. you bring a rape survivor who was very public on columbia's campus with benjamin, a person who has called emma a liar. >> the reason we're here and the reason we're on this call is, benjamin, a few years ago, you wrote emma a message with very few words. you just said you are a liar. emma, how did it feel to receive it? >> honestly, it wasn't even just benjamin's message individually that hurt so much. it was the torrential outpouring from the internet of these kinds of messages into my lap. >> well, i apologize for the
hurt. i do sincerely apologize for that. i know it may sound trite. that wasn't my intention. but i don't apologize for the disagreement. you became a very public person, and you didn't -- from everything i could see, you didn't shy away from the public eye either. maybe some messages should be expected. and i would never say, like, any death threats or anything like that. i would never do that. i hope that on the spectrum this was rather a banal one. >> you said this was one of the most challenging episodes you've done. what about this was challenging for you? >> this is taking a conversation online that is incredibly difficult and trying to give it space to breathe offline. we are seeing, you know, with a movement that i fully stand by as an ally which is the me too movement, we are seeing a lot of survivors bravely come forward
as being survivors of sexual assault. and when we have these conversations online about the importance of believing survivors, that's one thing because i think we are -- because we have to, we're using talking points and we're using hashtags, and that is crucial for online communication. what's complicated is when you get offline and this was, and this is a very specific case, meaning i think it's important to only speak about the specifics of the dynamics between these two people, emma and benjamin, and emma, you know, emma was thrust into the public spotlight. and then a stranger who found his way into emma's inbox with a message that said, you know, you are a liar.
i think what we're talking about here is the disbelief that some people have when rape survivors come forward. and the demand for forensic evidence when that is itself an incredibly complicated topic. i think this was challenging because my job is to make sure that all people on the call feel safe. i need it to make sure emma felt safe talking about this. if benjamin didn't feel comfortable the way the call went, the episode wouldn't have gone out. i think my job is creating a safe space for all of my guests, including benjamin, and -- >> is it your job to hold them in equal weight? >> well, i don't know that it's important to hold one human's account of what happened to them in equal weight to a stranger
who's denying that that ever happened to them, right? a stranger's suggestion that what they say happened to them didn't happen. i don't think it's about holding those two things in equal weight. but what i do think my job is, is holding the fact that these are two human people, two human people who were once born, you know, and went through a whole bunch of experiences and communities that shaped who they are today. and that is what has caused them to intersect on my show. thanks for having me. >> a rational and human approach in an online world that's often anything but. now to an artist whose paintings are among the most rational human and recognizable in the world. his style is so distinctive that
he is undoubtedly one of the first artists any child could recognize. vincent van gogh's story of struggle and mental illness is among the most well known. who would take on the challenge of portraying such a towering figure on the silver screen? willem dafoe, of course, from art house to blockbuster, "platoon" to "spider-man," to "the florida project," dafoe has done it all and has been nominated for academy awards. his new film is "at eternity's gate," and he tells me he not only learned to portray the old master but to paint like him, too. >> willem dafoe, welcome to the program. >> thank you. >> so first and foremost, it struck me that you look exactly like van gogh in the film. you just do. did you really absorb him? >> well, i tried to inhabit him. as far as looking like him, i never saw it particularly.
he did so many self-portraits and they're quite different. they're at different stages of his life. but after the fact i felt like him. >> he's an intense, intense human being. van gogh has been depicted every which way. there are at least five movies that have been told about him. endless exhibitions, his work is just so phenomenal and hundreds of millions or tens of millions of dollars every auction piece that comes up. what made this one different for you? why did you agree to do this? >> primarily because a painter was directing it. a painter that also happens to be a great filmmaker. i've known the director of the movie for a long time. i've been in his studio while he's working. i worked with him in minor ways on some of his movies.
i knew that i would have to learn to paint in this movie and he would be my teacher. that was thrilling. it's not a traditional bio pic. it concentrates on what he does often with movies about historical figures. usually what they do is a given, and then they concentrate on an interpretation of their psychological makeup. i think this really concentrates on the work, on painting, on being an artist. we rely very much on his letters and also painting. >> as you say, julia said i didn't want to make a movie about vincent van gogh. i wanted to make a movie where you, willem dafoe, were willem -- vincent van gogh. >> yes. i think the way the movie is shot and the way we approached it we wanted to find out what -- we tried to imagine what it
would be like to be with his thoughts and be with him doing the things that he did. so we shot in the actual places helper -- he were. i was painting. the approach was not so much an interpretation as a desire to inhabit or imagine, have the audience be with him. it's a very subjective camera, and you're with him all the time. ? and that is absolutely clear throughout. as a viewer i really did feel that. tell me because it is remarkable how you were taught to paint by your painter director. >> he starts me out as you would think with very basic things, how to hold a brush, how to keep things in order, all those sorts of things, technique, craft things. but i think more significantly he really shifted how i see. he talked to me a lot about making marks and the accumulation marks and marks
talking to each other to create a swirl that really expressed what you see. he also taught me that you don't rush to represent something. you really see -- you try to paint what you see. so when i'm painting a cypress tree he encourages me not to think about representing, doing a good likeness of the cypress tree but painting the light, seeing where the dark spots are, where the colors are and just thinking about each individual act of making the mark and then they accumulate. and you actually see it in the movie in the sequence where i paint the shoes in real time. you see how all these marks that don't really look correct all of a sudden transform the painting into something that may not be necessarily a good likeness but really captures what you're looking at. >> yes.
i was going to say that, actually. that is you painting it from beginning to end? >> yes. >> wow. >> often, for example, that sequence i was very well coached on and i practiced doing that because i knew i was going to do that more or less in real time. you don't see it in real time because that would be tedious maybe. but to shoot it in real time without traditional coverage really made it more organic and gave it integrity. because you do see that shift from a series of marks and a swirl of colors into something that does speak to those shoes i'm looking at. >> fast forward in the movie and you are painting a portrait of the famous dr. gashe, i think his name is. we've chosen a clip from it from there. it's an amplification about what the painting means and how you felt during the film. let's just play this moment.
>> when i paint, i stop thinking. >> about what? >> i stop thinking. i feel that i'm a part of everything outside and inside of me. i wanted so much to share what i see. >> i mean, it's very, very moving because you know that vincent van gogh is a tortured soul and seems to have a hard time communicating. there are scenes in the film where he's really -- you can't understand why he's being bullied and kids are throwing stones at him, why people are destroying his paintings. tell me about that, about what that little clip says about him. >> he had a gift and he had a vision. but how to reconcile the joy and connection with that with daily
life was difficult for him. socially and famously it's chronicled in his letters. he had a hard time with people and he was a difficult person socially. he had problems with women. he had problems with the people in the town. he had problems with the whole art market. >> and we're not quite sure why. there's this amazing scene where you as vincent are committed to an insane asylum and his brother who is an art dealer comes to visit him. we're just going to play that. >> teo, come here. >> why did they put you here?
>> i have no idea, tea. i swear to you. >> there must be a reason. >> from time to time i feel like i'm losing my mind. my mind goes out of me, i'm telling you. it goes out on me. >> what do you mean? >> they say that i scream in the streets, that i cry, that i put black paint on my face to scare the children. >> so a tortured soul. where do you come down on what his problem was? >> i think he knew a certain kind of ecstasy, a certain kind of joy through his work. but he couldn't reconcile that with daily life. . >> yeah. >> as indicated in the other clip, when he was painting and somewhat you relate to this when
you feel connected to your work, when you're in the zone, when you're in the flow, you feel well. and when he was outside of that zone, i think he felt very lost. >> and it is extraordinary to remember that apparently he sold almost nothing when he was alive. >> right, right. but, to be fair, people towards the end of his life, people were talking about him. he got some very positive reviews, so it might have been a matter of time before he started to sell. but i think he made a huge leap. he took a huge break from what was fashionable at the time and anytime that happens, i think it takes some time to catch up. >> so, willem dafoe, you have a quite extraordinary prolific -- you were as prolific as van gogh. you've done so many films, 99, i think.
i think this is your 99th film, and you've done everything from art house to blockbuster. in fact, one of the articles i read about you it said that you could do an art house film or whatever it is but then you had to swerve back to hollywood. you had to do a blockbuster or a disney or something to keep yourself marketable. that's what the system demanded. is that what you find or do you enjoy doing this variety? >> that's part of it but the variety helps because it keeps from you getting stuck. i always appreciate performing is a thing that can be approached many different ways. it's an activity that can be approached from many angles. i think your way of doing things gets challenged. you exercise different muscles. i notice certain patterns of things that i'm drawn to.
for example, i'm very drawn to very strong directors, whether they're in i understand cinema or studio movies. i basically like to mix it up. it feels healthier. there is that career consideration somewhat, but that's not foremost. it's an artistic choice you don't like to get stuck, keep on going to the same instincts and the same well. i think to keep it loose is to be free because you're always working from the beginning when you start a project because you have nothing to compare it to. there's nothing normal. there's nothing regular. so as long as you stay out of that kind of routine, you're freer and you can access the imagination and desire to find things out curiosity and wonder much more easily.
>> you come across as an iconoclast, a bit of a rebel. >> fooled you! >> yeah, exactly. exactly. that's what i was going to say. because you come from an incredibly normal middle class, highly professional family from wisconsin, if i'm not mistaken. >> that's correct. >> i think your father was a doctor. >> yes. >> and your mom? >> she was a nurse. >> there you go. and so start with that because you have many siblings, a lot of them became nurses and you talk about how your siblings sort of raised you because your parents were often out working and out all hours. what was it like growing up in that household? >> it was a big family. i was toward the end of it. i was brought up by my sisters. my mother was the original super mom but was truly more of a career woman.
she worked with my father. they both were workaholics. and i think from that experience i saw that it worked well for them and i think i always seek -- i tend to work with people that i love. i like to work. growing up it was chaos. it was chaos but it gave me a lot of freedom. it's not bad being raised by older sisters. >> not bad at all. you've done, obviously, so many, but platoon and mississippi burning and the florida project which you were nominated for. you played a really sweet person in "the florida project." you were really there to help these people so down on their luck. what kind of roles do you like playing the most? the difference between "platoon"
and "the hotel manager in "the florida project" is massive. >> i like the idea of being transformed, learning something and taking a point of view i didn't know before. for example, when i played in "the florida project," i had no idea that was a sympathetic character. i'm not that attracted to characters because you don't know what they are until you do them. i'm attracted to situations. in that situation, i knew the filmmaker. i knew we would film in a real month -- motel. i knew we would mix nonprofessional with professional actors. all those things interested me. it's really the project and the people i'm drawn to. as far as characters, i think if you can identify their function or what kind of people they are before you even begin to inhabit them that, discourages you from surprising yourself or being transformed or learning something.
so i think i have a nose for adventure and curiosity. sometimes that bites you back because you never answer your questions. but it's best to start out with questions rather than have an idea and have your job be expressing or executing. i like to feel like every time is the first time and, of course, that becomes ridiculous when you've made as many movies as i do. but somehow there's something in me that i'm able to do that. i have a certain amnesia. >> or a gift. that is the gift you give to the audience, really, that you come at it with this energy and passion every time. will you continue painting, do you think? have you found a new hobby or a new love? >> you know, i love painting, but the truth is i have a pretty no maddic life. and i think to really paint in a serious way, and when i do something, i do it seriously,
it's hard to bring your studio with you and also it has to be a daily practice. when you're working 12 hour days it doesn't allow much time. i'm foremost a performer and had better stick to that. >> willem dafoe, thank you very much indeed. >> thank you. nice talking to you. >> you too. dafoe gives an incredible performance as van go. that is it for our program tonight. thank you for watching "amanpour & co." on pbs and join us again tomorrow night. uniworld is a proud sponsor of "amanpour & co." when bea tollman founded a collection of boutique hotels,
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